Preseason eve for Dolphins NRL

Published 4:26pm 31 October 2022

Preseason eve for Dolphins NRL
Words by Kylie Knight

As the Dolphins count down the hours to their official entry in the NRL – November 1 – CEO Terry Reader chats with Moreton Daily about how the club is shaping up and the ‘thrills and spills’ still to come in the player market.

We chatted after Reader announced a sponsorship partnership with Sesame Lane Care and Kindergarten earlier this afternoon.

He says the club is in a great position thanks to meticulous planning and a commitment to block out noise and criticism while sticking to that plan.

Reader also says the Dolphins’ roster is looking competitive, with a few more names to be added to it in the coming couple of months.

Dolphins NRL CEO Terry Reader Q&A

Q. How are things looking on preseason eve?

A. Very good. As we know we had 12 months to get ready – everything’s been geared towards November 1 when we officially come on board as an NRL club and for the first time get NRL support through funding and through the other elements available to all teams.

The Dolphins Group has actually funded the whole transition … a lot of people don’t realise that. Everything that’s been done so far in getting ready and to get to the start line on November 1 was all funded by the Dolphins Group. I think everyone’s looking forward to officially coming on board as an NRL Club on November 1.

Q. Can we expect any more signing news in the next couple of weeks and how are things positioned there?

A. We’ve got 26 players out of a squad of 30, you only had to have 24 signed by November 1 which we’ve done. We have been, from day one, very patient about our recruitment and setting the club up … it’s not a club that we’re setting up for ‘23 only, it’s about the future. We’ve got a 75-year foundation and it’s never been about only ’23.

We’re really happy with the squad we’ve put together but there’s no one on the market at the moment that we think can strengthen our squad. To-date, the day before the November 1 starting date, we still don’t have a salary cap, we still don’t have a CBA of players which means a lot of players’ contracts even at all other clubs aren’t even registered yet.

So, there will be a lot of movement of players I would imagine in December and January and we’ll probably be the biggest beneficiaries of clubs struggling to being able to hold their players. There’s probably still plenty of thrills and spills to come with the player market.

Preseason eve for Dolphins NRL

Q. What are your goals between now and round one?

A. The first goal is … we can actually bring our brand to life properly … people will be able to see players in a Dolphins outfit for the first time tomorrow. All our advertising, all our branding changes over because officially the players have signed to become our employees as of tomorrow. You will see that around all our channels. I know that’s exciting for everyone.

The other key element is people will be wearing Dolphins NRL gear in training. That really brings it to life. The next big date for us when the real excitement comes, and people start to look ahead, is when the draw comes out which we expect to have on November 9. They’ll be able to see the games we’re playing at Suncorp Stadium, the games at Moreton Daily Stadium.

Q. Are you planning some fan days and opportunities to see players at training?

A. We are. Training is open. We’re obviously in a public venue out there at the Dolphins. We’ve got the junior fields but also the elite training field out the back, so there’s nothing to stop people from coming and having a look (at the team training).

Our first group comes back on November 7, a lot of the younger guys on train and trials (contracts), and our next group is November 17 and December 1 when a lot of the more established NRL players come back. We’ve got nine players over at the World Cup, so we actually won’t see them until January. It’s a bit of a staggered preseason because of the World Cup commitments and guys having their leave.

Q. Can you believe it’s nearly here?

A. It’s actually gone really quickly even though it feels like it’s gone on for a long time. We’ve made sure we’ve been really sensible about things, really patient and set it up. The big thing has been putting a staff together – we went from one staff member, myself, to as of tomorrow when we have our staff induction day with all our NRL football staff … we’ll have over 40 staff.

The key thing and something I’m really proud of is assembling a staff that are really experienced and good at what they do in each field. You’re only as good as the people around so we made sure of that on the playing field and also in our footy department or even in the commercial side.

We’ve done some wonderful things commercially and put ourselves up in the top couple in the NRL in sponsorship which I think is a great show of faith of what companies think of the Dolphins and our strategy and our plan. They’ve backed us before we’ve even seen a player in a jersey, or kicked a bal. That’s really exciting.

The amount of fans who have signed up so they can be the first to buy season tickets was wonderful and that’s continued. We’ve seen a great balance between people based here locally in the Moreton Bay Region, but also in Brisbane. A lot of people who live within a 15km radius of Suncorp Stadium have signed up for membership now that they’ve realised we’ve got the majority of our games at Suncorp. Then, imagine when we get back here and play some of the games at Moreton Daily, they’ll be our biggest and people will be fighting over a ticket when we’re in our spiritual home for a few games a year. It will be something to really look forward to and I know I’m really excited.

Preseason eve for Dolphins NRL
Dolphins NRL Head Coach Wayne Bennett has been crucial in building the player roster.

Q. What has been the biggest highlight for you in the past 12 months?

A. It’s funny … when we won the bid … we didn’t have time to really celebrate even winning the bid because that was a big process and a big journey to get there but the real work started the moment they called us and said ‘you’re in’. We had 12 months to put everything together and in reality we only really had six months because a lot of things get done in advance.

The biggest highlight is how we managed to build a staff in that short period of time and being able to deliver some wonderful results and have our club positioned in a great spot before we even kick a ball or even see a player in a jersey. We’ve put down a foundation that can only, in my mind, set us up for success.

I think the squad we’ve put together. Everyone was infatuated by who might play five-eighth and 24, and they’ve forgotten about the squad we have to play in ’23. I think when we signed The Hammer, that just shows you the thrills and spills that still might happen in the player market … when it happened a lot of people stopped and had a look at our squad because there had been so much talk about Cameron Munster or who might play five-eighth and 24, people hadn’t taken the time to have a look at the squad.

We’ve got one of the best forward packs in the NRL, with good leadership and experience, but also some quality youngsters and even people from north of Brisbane and this area in Tom Gilbert. You can guarantee we’ll have more star quality coming before we run out in that first game in March.

Q. What has been the biggest learning in the past 12 months?

A. I think the biggest learning over the last 12 months for us is that we set out a strategy. One thing about having an NRL bid process is that you had to show how you would start in year zero with no funding to when you came on board … it also gave you a great plan and structure for that the next five years – what our projected revenue and sponsorship base need to be, how to build our club and the things we put in place which are about more than winning and losing. I think that work that was done, which was very significant because it was based on getting a licence in the NRL, has given us a great foundation and plan.

We probably didn’t take into account, is that most things people want to talk about or report on is negative – Moreton Daily doesn’t sit in that category. We’re really clear that we wouldn’t change the plan we put in place. Things that we set out to do have come to fruition and we’re in a really strong position as we start, including on our roster. We think we’ll be very competitive and we’ve got some to add to it.

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